Mediation may become compulsory for non-salary disputes like unfair dismissals

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that the Government, unions and employers are in talks to expand the scope of the Employment Claims Act to cover mandatory mediation of non-salary-related disputes.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that the Government, unions and employers are in talks to expand the scope of the Employment Claims Act to cover mandatory mediation of non-salary-related disputes. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Employers who dismiss workers unfairly may have to attend mandatory mediation sessions in future if those let go dispute the treatment.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Friday (Oct 20) that the Government, unions and employers are in talks to expand the scope of the Employment Claims Act to cover mandatory mediation of non-salary-related disputes.

The aim is to reach an agreement by next year, to allow the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) to cover these issues, he said.

The office currently covers mandatory mediation only for salary-related disputes, while it can facilitate voluntary mediation when workers or employers raise other types of disputes.

Of particular concern is the issue of wrongful dismissals of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), Mr Lim added.

"We felt that this is an area that is of greatest concern for PMEs who are affected by dismissal, and at the same time has the greatest impact on them," he told reporters after a seminar on good dispute management practices.

Mr Lim also gave a six-month update on TADM, which was set up in April to provide advice and conduct mediation for employment-related disputes.

The office has seen 4,600 salary dispute cases, and helped resolve 3,100 cases as of last month.

Nine in 10 of those employees manged to recover their unpaid salaries in full, amounting to about $5 million.

Among those who sought help were 300 PMEs, who previously could only recover unpaid salaries through the Civil Courts.

Mr Lim, speaking to some 400 company officials at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East, said TADM - which has no salary cap for workers who want to register - aims to help more categories of employees.

Previously, only workers covered under the Employment Act could take their salary claims to the Manpower Ministry, while managers and executives earning a basic salary of more than $4,500 a month had to go to the Civil Courts.

The centre also helps employers and employees resolve a wider range of disputes beyond issues covered by employment laws, said Mr Lim.

It has held voluntary mediation for about 100 cases not covered by law, of which seven in 10 were successfully settled by September. The most common cases included termination and performance appraisals, he said.

Beyond dispute resolution, the centre also helped 170 employees with employment disputes by linking them up with job search help or financial assistance, for example.

TADM has two offices in Jurong East and Bendemeer.